Durham Appointed as Special Counsel; Republicans Call on Dems to Respect the Process

'In light of the extraordinary circumstances relating to these matters, the public interest warrants Mr. Durham continuing this investigation...'

The Justice Department’s appointment of prosecutor John Durham as a special counsel will give him the same autonomy previously held by Robert Mueller during President Donald Trump’s first term.

“Following consultation with Mr. Durham, I have determined that, in light of the extraordinary circumstances relating to these matters, the public interest warrants Mr. Durham continuing this investigation pursuant to the powers and independence afforded by the Special Counsel regulations,” Attorney General William Barr said in a letter Tuesday.

Barr’s authorization gives Durham broad powers to investigate “whether any federal official, employee, or any other person or entity violated the law in connection with the intelligence, counter-intelligence, or law-enforcement activities directed at the 2016 presidential campaigns,” it said.

That includes any individuals associated with Trump’s campaign or administration, as well as those involved in the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” operation and the subsequent Mueller investigation into Russian collusion.

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The move may mark yet another concession from the Trump administration that its hopes of reversing the projected results that favored Democrat Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 election were waning, despite strong evidence of both vote fraud.

Barr earlier in the day said he had not seen sufficient evidence of widespread, systemic vote fraud that would result in deeper involvement in the legal proceedings from the DOJ.

The news about the Durham probe is something of a consolation prize for the president, who has long sought validation in the conspiracy that marred the first few years of his White House tenure and may have helped swing the outcome of the 2018 midterm election in Democrats’ favor, further stymieing the second half of his presidential term.

Nonetheless, Trump has made clear his consternation and frustration with Barr and Durham for failing to reach some conclusion prior to the November election.

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Paired with other cover-ups, such as a media blackout of information on the multiple scandals involving Hunter Biden, the foot-dragging on the ObamaGate probe helped reinforce, for many Trump supporters, the sense that there was, yet again, a stacked deck.

However, key Senate Republicans saw the move as a positive step toward righting those political grievances, helping to ensure that a Biden-run Justice Department could not easily bring the matter to an abrupt close without facing severe backlash and accusations of hypocrisy.

“John Durham has been hard at work for well over a year to get some clarity on the events that launched the FBI’s flawed and debunked investigation into the 2016 Trump presidential campaign,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, a former chair and potentially future chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Just as I said during the Mueller probe, this investigation should be allowed to continue unimpeded and without artificial timelines. Naming Durham as a special counsel ensures that a new administration can’t pull the plug on an ongoing investigation and prevent needed transparency by simply cleaning house,” Grassley continued. “Durham has been appointed under the same authority that established the Mueller investigation, and he should likewise be allowed to complete his important work.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, the current Judiciary chair, said he also concurred with Barr’s decision to elevate Durham.

“Based on hearings we held in the Senate Judiciary Committee, it is obvious the system failed and the FISA Court’s rebuke of the Department of Justice and FBI was more than warranted,” Graham said.

“To restore credibility to the Department of Justice and FBI after this disgraceful episode, people have to be held accountable—either through criminal prosecution or administrative action,” he added.

Yet, serious accountability may prove a bridge too far under a Biden administration.

Durham—who already had the power to empanel a grand jury—thus far has only indicted one minor player, former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith.

The unabashedly partisan, anti-Trump Clinesmith knowingly altered a piece of potentially exculpatory evidence that would have undermined the FBI’s efforts to secure a warrant to spy on Trump adviser Carter Page.

The involvement of some of the top brass in the Obama intelligence community became clear following the release of classified documents, including handwritten FBI notes.

Nonetheless, officials like former CIA Director John Brennan, former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe have brazenly continued to deny knowledge or intent concerning any wrongdoing.

Even if Durham’s probe were to yield conclusive evidence, a Biden administration might still be able to exert pressure on it, up to and including the pardoning of those who may be implicated.

But doing so, after Trump begrudgingly allowed the Mueller investigation to drag on for roughly two years at an estimated cost of more than $30 million would be optically problematic for Democrats, already hobbled by a less-than-overwhelming voter mandate with growing suspicious that they secured the presidency through ill-gotten means.

Regardless, Graham—who also supported the Mueller probe—said that allowing Durham’s work to finish would go a long way toward mending the damage.

“I have complete confidence that Mr. Durham is the right man at the right time to be appointed special counsel,” he said. “I hope his work product will help restore confidence in the Department of Justice and FBI after the debacle called Crossfire Hurricane.”

And he called on his political rivals to show the same courtesy for seeing through the process that Republicans did in the past.

“I hope my Democrat colleagues will show Special Counsel Durham the same respect they showed Special Counsel Mueller,” Graham said.

“This important investigation must be allowed to proceed free from political interference,” he continued. “The American people deserve a full accounting of this wrongdoing.”

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